Whether you’ve bought a campervan in the United States and need to ship it to the U.K. or you’ve sent the vehicle to the U.S. and need to get it back, you need to know how to do it.
Unfortunately, it’s not a simple case of finding the right carrier and cracking on.
In addition to preparing and shipping the vehicle, there are some legal requirements
that campers need to understand as part of the process. Let’s explore the key steps you need to take when shipping a campervan from the U.S. to the U.K.
Step 1 – Find an Appropriate Shipping Company
Unless you own a boat or plane that’s capable of crossing the Atlantic ocean, shipping a vehicle
overseas yourself isn’t an option. You need a shipping company. More importantly, you need a
shipping company that offers overseas shipping and understands the challenges of transporting a campervan.
You can find the perfect carriers for the job at https://www.a1autotransport.com/. But if you want to explore more options, keep these tips in mind:
Always research any vehicle shipping company you consider. That means looking beyond the marketing copy on their website. Look for independent reviews on Google, social media, and on industry-related websites.
Check for membership or association with either the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) or the British International Freight Association (BIFA). Both oversee international shipping, with the FMC being the U.S.’s regulatory body, while BIFA is a trade association that represents U.K.-based shipping companies.
Choose the appropriate type of shipping for your budget and your vehicle’s needs. Shipping via sea takes more time but generally costs less than air freight. Ideally, your shipping company should offer both options and be able to talk you through each.
The right shipping company takes a lot of the stress of importing your campervan into the U.K. off your hands. Take your time with the research phase, so you don’t waste time (or money) later on.
Step 2 – Understand the Requirements for Temporary and Permanent Import into the U.K.
Your status in the U.K. matters when shipping your campervan. If you’re going to be in the country for six months or less, you can take advantage of temporary import rules. Otherwise, you need to go through the process of registering the campervan for permanent import.
The temporary side of things is simpler.
According to the U.K. government website, your vehicle needs to be taxed and registered in its home country. You must also have no plans to live in the U.K., and the vehicle must be in the country for less than six months. However, you need to register the vehicle in the U.K. if you plan to travel between England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. Each is a separate country within the U.K., meaning driving between them is more complex than driving between states in the U.S.
If you plan on keeping your campervan van in the U.K., you have to register the vehicle in the
country. This process involves five steps:
1. Inform His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of your intention within 14 days of the
vehicle’s arrival in the U.K.
2. Pay whatever duty fees and Value-Added Tax (VAT) HMRC requires.
3. Complete and submit the Individual Vehicle Approval form to get approval for your
campervan to operate on U.K. roads.
4. Register and tax your vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
5. Insure your campervan with an appropriate provider.
If you fail to follow these steps, your campervan isn’t legal to drive in the U.K. You may face
penalties, including fines and prison time, if the vehicle isn’t properly registered for a permanent
Step 3 – Gather the Appropriate Documents
You have to deal with U.S. and U.K. customs when shipping your vehicle from one country to the
other. To get the campervan out of the U.S., you need to provide the following documents:
A purchase invoice naming you as the owner
A copy of the vehicle’s registration certificate
Any documents related to granting a power of attorney to whoever transports the vehicle on your behalf, assuming you’re not taking responsibility for the process
Your shipping company may also need these documents when it enters the U.K. Furthermore, you need to gather all of the permissions and documentation mentioned in Step 2 to drive your
campervan once it arrives.
Thankfully, a good vehicle shipping company should lay out the legal requirements for you, allowing you to gather the documents they require quickly. Still, it’s best to do this as early as possible to ensure you don’t have to scramble around just days before the shipping company picks up your campervan.
Step 4 – Prepare the Vehicle
No matter which type of transportation you choose, your campervan will get moved around a lot. It gets driven to a port or airport, loaded onto a ship or plane, and then driven to its destination.
Preparation is critical to ensuring no damage occurs during these processes.
Start by taking a complete inventory of the campervan.
Document any existing damage with timestamped photographs and a written log, which you can
provide to your shipping company when they pick up the vehicle. Most shipping companies carry out their own condition reports, for which you receive the results. But it’s always worth having your own evidence in case they miss something or if you need to make a claim.
With your documentation completed, move on to preparing the vehicle. Leave a quarter-tank of
petrol so the shipping company can drive the vehicle. Remove any personal items, as well as any
loose items that are part of the vehicle, to prevent damage or theft. Finally, secure all drawers,
doors, and windows with Velcro, latches, or similar accessories.
Welcome Your Campervan to the U.K.
Shipping a campervan from the U.S. to the U.K. can feel like an arduous experience. Beyond finding the right shipping company to handle the job, you have a lot of documentation to handle. That documentation only intensifies if you intend on keeping the campervan in the U.K. permanently.
With these steps, you now understand how to find a suitable carrier and what legal requirements
you must meet to ship your campervan. As a final piece of advice, don’t leave this work until the last minute. The sooner you handle these tasks, the easier the journey from the U.S. to the U.K. will be.
Written by Jason Mueller